The Scary STI Trends You Need To Know About In 2016
The Debrief: Anal chlamydia is coming to get you…as are a variety of other terrifying STIs on the rise in 2016. Mate, don’t even *look* at a penis.
Illustrations by Marina Esmeraldo
Sex can be a wonderful, squelchily ecstatic thing. A good bang can leave you with a grin wider than a Kardashian arse, clad in a padded ski suit, viewed through a fisheye lens.
But sex also carries risks. For example, as I recently discovered, it is possible to graze the tip of your nose on a bloke’s manscaped pube stubble whilst giving a blow job, leaving you with a peeling, red schnozz for a week, during which time your friends (I use the term loosely) will nickname you ‘Blew-dolph’.
Rather more seriously though, you can also contract a variety of sexually transmitted infections - especially if you don’t use barrier protection, i.e. condoms. Yet worryingly, recent research by Durex has revealed that only a meagre 14% of 16-24 year olds consider protecting themselves from STIs to be a key concern during sex, and that 4 in every 10 young people have slept with more than one person without using a rubber.
As a result of folks eschewing Johnnies like this, cases of certain STIs look set to increase during 2016. Including bum chlamydia. BUM CHLAMYDIA. Let us tell you more while you rock quietly in the corner, googling ‘How to become a nun’, with a face like you just watched that video from The Ring.
STIs on the rise...
1. Anal Chlamydia
Studies published in the British Medical Journal detail how more heterosexual people are engaging in anal sex than ever before. In surveys conducted in 2013, almost one in five 16-24 year olds claimed to have done someone up the arse or had a peen up their poo chute over the last year; that’s around three times higher than suggested by reports from 1990. The trend appears to apply to older age groups too.
'The growing popularity of anal amongst heterosexuals has been linked with several things, including increased access to and imitation of pornography,' says Kevin Lennon from sexual advisory service Brook. 'Amongst younger people in certain cultures, we’re also hearing the idea that anal sex is not thought of as ‘real’ sex and that a girl can theoretically remain a virgin by allowing a partner to penetrate her anus but not her vagina.'
More generally too, increasingly liberal attitudes are leading to a greater proportion of couples being more confident and open about experimenting with anal play.
Yet while there’s now automatically wrong with a bit of back door action, many couples who engage in anal intercourse are choosing not to use condoms – and that can really make bumming a bummer.
'There’s a misplaced perception amongst some straight people that anal sex is ‘safe’ and doesn’t require barrier contraception because there’s obviously no risk of getting someone pregnant that way,' continues Lennon. 'But there’s still a very real danger of contracting an infection, such as HIV – or rectal chlamydia. There are already high rates of chlamydia amongst young people; increases in the prevalence of unprotected anal sex suggest that increases in the number of rectal infections could well follow.'
The majority of anal chlamydia cases don’t show any obvious symptoms, so you may not know if you’ve got it. However, over time, the STI can cause proctitis: an inflammation of the rectum that may involve bleeding, diarrhoea, blood and mucus being present in stools, pain during bowel movements, and a more frequent need to visit the loo for a number two. That’s some unpleasant shit. Literally.
If you suspect you may be at risk, you’ll need to be tested using an anal swab. This looks a bit like a long cotton bud, which is inserted into your asshole and swirled around a bit. It usually doesn’t hurt at all, and a lot of clinics will let you do it yourself. If you test positive for chlamydia, a short course of antibiotics should quickly sort you out.
1. Super gonorrhoea
The absolute worst of all the super heroes.
Gonorrhea is already a bitch to spell, and now it’s proving a bitch to get rid of, too. A new highly drug-resistant ‘super’ strain of the STI was first detected by Public Health England in March last year. The outbreak began in Leeds, and 14 more examples were soon found in Macclesfield (my hometown, being glamorous as usual), Oldham and Scunthorpe. ‘Super gonorrhea’ doesn’t respond to the usual doses of azithromycin drugs typically prescribed as treatment, so it’s a lot harder to cure. And although the number of instances may seem small at the mo, they were enough to trigger a national alert, as infections like this can swiftly spread like wild fire. Or bush fire. In your pubic bush.
Super gonorrhoea has arisen through the combined evil powers of people having unprotected sex, and doctors inefficiently or over-zealously prescribing antibiotics, leading to a reduction in their efficacy.
'Unfortunately, super gonorrhoea looks set to spread beyond the North of England, if it hasn’t done so already,' says Lennon. 'Gonorrhoea in general is on the increase, too.'
The message? Wrap it up before you slap it up.
3. Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
BV arises when the balance of bacteria in the vagina becomes disrupted. V-jay-jays usually contain friendly bacteria called lactobacilli, which produce lactic acid. The acid stops nasty bacteria from growing. Women with Bacterial Vaginosis experience a dip in the numbers of lactobacilli in their foofs, meaning their innards aren’t as acidic as they should be, and grotty bacteria can grow out of control.
Around 50% of women who have BV are asymptomatic, but others experience soreness, itching, and/or discharge that’s thin and watery, greyish, or with a noxious fishy odour, particularly after sex. If your vageen smells like you’ve been fingered by Captain Birdseye after a boink, BV could be the problem.
BV isn’t strictly an STI, because it’s not passed on via sex, although intercourse can aggravate it. The causes still aren’t fully understood. However, doctors are seeing more and more cases, particularly amongst women of colour, which may be related to natural differences in the pH levels of their vaginas.
'Sexual health clinics are telling us that a huge majority of women coming to them have either BV or thrush, a yeast infection similarly triggered by chemicals in the vagina becoming out of their normal healthy balance,' says Brook’s Roz Scourse. 'Many of them admit to having tried to self-treat these conditions by douching – squirting water or even antibacterial agents such as Dettol inside themselves – in an attempt to wash away smelly fluids, but this can damage the vaginal lining and aggravates the situation massively. While BV is not an STI in itself, it’s been linked with an increased risk of transmission of other STIs, including HIV, so it’s really important that we educate women not to do this.'
So, don’t be a douche: don’t douche.
HELP AND PROTECTION:
Want more STI info, advice on testing and treatment, or a cavalcade of condoms to protect yourself from 2016’s beastly diseases? Voila:
•Brook are bloody brilliant. Get reliable advice on all things sex via their website, and check out the Ask Brook service, where you can speak to a sexual health worker on the phone or via text – www.brook.org.uk
•Find sexual health services in your local area in under a minute via SXT - www.sxt.org.uk
•The NHS Freedoms Shop purchases huge numbers of Johnnies to supply to NHS Trusts and GPs across the UK… and now they offer them at vastly reduced prices for the public to purchase online too, along with at-home STI testing kits – www.freedoms-shop.com
•Durex’s ‘When It’s On It’s On’ site offers suggestions of how to discuss safer sex with partners and make protecting yourself easier - http://whenitsonitson.durex.co.uk/
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